Making It Easy to Learn More


Yesterday I was perusing my twitter feed (I mean diligently revising my WIP…) when I saw a friend link to a stranger’s blog unveiling the cover for her debut novel.  I love checking out new covers and so I clicked the link and was taken to the stranger’s blog.  Her cover was really gorgeous, the book had a very intriguing title, and immediately I wanted to know more (yay, that’s exactly what a cover and title should do)!  What was this book about?  When would it be out?

I scoured the blog entry but it only mentioned the publisher.  I looked for links about the book, anything to find out more but there was nothing.  I happened to be chatting with a friend of mine (someone who is great at getting the word of mouth about books going) and I sent her the link to the blog.

She also found the cover intriguing and off course she was more industrious than I was, hunting the book down on Goodreads to learn more.  But during the whole episode I had one consistent thought: why was the author not making it easier for us to learn more about her and her book?  Why was she forcing us to hunt her down on third party websites (where she can’t control content) to find out more?  Here was a chance for two complete strangers to get excited (which is how word of mouth begins to build) and she missed it.

I remember having a similar experience a year before I sold my first book when I stumbled onto someone’s blog announcing a recent sale.  But the sale didn’t have a title, the blog didn’t have the author’s name and there were no links.  The book sounded awesome and I would have put it on my radar but there was absolutely NO way I was able to!  I vowed then and there that I wouldn’t let that happen to me.

Sometimes I think it’s easy to fall into the comfort of our own blogging community and to assume that anyone reading one of our posts knows us and knows our history and we forget that we need to make it easy for strangers to learn more about us (that is, if we want strangers to become part of the community).

A perfect example of this is the Nerdfighter community.  Perhaps some of you have heard of this — several years ago brothers John and Hank Green started a project in which they only communicated via vlogs.  Soon enough they amassed a following and today it’s a pretty huge (and awesome) community.  Over the years there have been scores of inside jokes which I imagine makes it hard for anyone new to feel like a part of their community.  To counter against that Hank and John have created a list of terms and videos to help newbies catch up.

They make it really really easy for new members to join their community which is why their community has continued to grow.

Now, I know a lot of authors out there feel pressure to develop online presences and platforms and this post isn’t really about that.  Really, all I’m talking about is an easy way for new people to learn more about things you want them to know, especially the things that you might want them to buy (like books and/or short stories).  Accomplishing this doesn’t even mean hiring an expensive web designer — I know a lot of authors who use blogs as websites with great success (frex: Kristin Cashore (see how easy it is to learn more via the links to the left) and Jackson Pearce (well, that used to be her website but isn’t anymore, but you still get the point)).

What I’m advocating is thinking about what information a stranger might want if they land on your page: if you’re announcing the cover of your book, think about also putting the back cover copy in the same post and maybe a release date/season and a pre-order link if you have one.  If you’re announcing a sale, make sure your name is attached somewhere.  Create a post or page where you aggregate this info and then link to it when you mention your books in posts.  All of this just makes it easier for people who want to know more to learn that info without having to go to extra measures.

Here’s one of my own examples of what I’m talking about. When I unveiled the cover  for the last book in my trilogy I wanted to accomplish a few things: (a) let people see the cover AND know what the book was about AND immediately order it if they wanted to (or at least add it to their wishlist); (b) provide a high res image of the book for bloggers to use; (c) link to that book page on my website for further information; (d) let people know how to get ARCs; and, (e) make sure people knew the release date.

My hope was that perhaps a stranger out there would follow a link to that page (which can happen a lot with twitter and retweets, esp when a new cover is revealed) and, knowing nothing about me, have all the information they’d if they decided to learn more about my book or order it (and also become a part of my online community).  That way my own blog/website would become the go-to place for info on the book rather than some third party where I couldn’t control the content.

Really, at the end of the day, I just wanted to make it easier for anyone who was interested to learn more.  One of the best aspects of the internet is creating our own communities but sometimes we have to approach our blogs and posts the way a complete stranger would and ask ourselves: what do I want this person to know and how do I make it easy for them?


9 comments to Making It Easy to Learn More

  • Carrie, I loved this list and have added it to my file on PR to jog my memory for the release of Raven Cursed. I have always done some of this, but never done all of it. Thanks!
    (a) let people see the cover AND know what the book was about AND immediately order it if they wanted to (or at least add it to their wishlist); (b) provide a high res image of the book for bloggers to use; (c) link to that book page on my website for further information; (d) let people know how to get ARCs; and, (e) make sure people knew the release date-

  • Great point, Carrie, and one I need to take to heart because I’m dreadful at stuff like this. Sigh.

  • AJ – I know what you mean! I often have things on my blog out of date. But it really just took that one burst of frustration when I visited someone else’s blog wanting more but not being able to find it to get it stuck in my head to try to provide as much info as possible. And it doesn’t have to be in the post — it can also be links in the sidebar.

  • Excellent points, Carrie. I think every author should have a dedicated Web page for each of their books that includes all the information you mentioned. You should reference that page everywhere you talk about your book. It’s like a online “marketing hub” for your book.

    For each of her non-fiction books, my wife has set up a separate web site with a domain name that matches the title of the book as closely as possible. The site includes info about the book as well as about her. There’s an online press kit with high-res images of her and the book cover. She even includes sample questions for interviewers.

    Basically, you want to make it as easy as possible for anyone who wants to learn more about your book and/or contact you.

    Yes, it helps that she knows her way around DreamWeaver, so the cost of the site is just some of her time, but you can get pretty close by adding article pages to a free blog.

  • Razziecat

    A year or so ago, someone on my online writers’ group asked for advice on setting up her website, which engendered a discussion of such things. My reaction was: Wow, I only have about 3 hours on weekdays to write as it is; now I have to spend part of that time creating & maintaining a website too? But I got curious, and began investigating places like LiveJournal, and found it isn’t really all that hard to set up a blog. I haven’t done much with it yet, but when (optimism!) I find myself with a published work to announce, at least I’ll have some idea what I’m doing.

  • In the world of marketing there are a bunch of P’s (product, price, place, promotion and pasta, I just made the pasta bit up). The price one is the one that is tricksy because to the lay person it is just a dollar value. In marketing world it is the amount of effort, including dollar value, required of a customer to get your product.
    As a good business person you need to have as high a perceived value product as possible as that is what customers want. Value = Benefits / Price. So you can see one easy way to increase value, and hence better your chances, is to reduce price. You can do that by having a lower dollar price tag, but then you get less profit. So you always try to reduce the price of things that don’t really cost you, the producer, anything. Such as information. Provide more information, tell the customer where to get your product, how to use it and what it’s good for. Information you can provide easily and cheaply. It will increase the value of your product without reducing your profit.

  • Razziecat – I totally understand what you’re saying about time. I agree with you that when time is limited, it’s probably better to spend it writing than worrying about things like websites, blogs etc (though I think this balance changes as you publish). I also think you have a great point that you don’t have to do anything huge and snazzy — Kristin Cashore is a great example of an online presence that’s simple but effective and informative. I don’t think you should spend all your time blogging but I do think that once you’re announcing something you should try to put as much information in that announcement as possible — just create a portal of some sort where readers can learn more. You wouldn’t have to blog every day or every week, just have the info out there.

    Interestingly, after posting this blog I saw another friend on twitter link to a different debut author’s unveiling of their cover. It was a great cover, very nice website, but when I clicked on the link for info about the book all I found were blurbs from other authors — nothing about what the book was actually about. I clicked around the site for a while looking for info and eventually gave up.

  • This is a great post, Carrie, and enormously helpful. I think it’s worth mentioning to our readers, that Carrie is really terrific at self-promotion and web-use — in many respects, she may be better at this than any of the rest of us. This post is more evidence of that. When she offers advice of this sort, take it to heart!

  • Mikaela

    This is a great post. Most authors know this, but some don’t. And it annoys me a lot. ( In fact I e-mailed one author suggesting that she should post more than the covers and links to BN and Amazon on her webpage. And got the answer to read her blog. *headdesk*.)